Lessons still to be learned to ensure fire door compliance

In our latest blog, our General Manager, Richard Sutton discusses some of the findings of our fire door team over the past 12 months.

“This year has been an extremely busy one for our team involved in fire door inspections, repairs, upgrades and replacements.  What we have found is that many public and private sector organisations have neglected their fire doors.  Whether this is down to cost cutting or just a general lack of enforcement we do not know, but what is certainly true is that there is a great deal of work to be done to get fire doors in premises up to the required standard. 

One of the reasons for this is a lack of technical knowledge relating to fire doors.  In some cases, fire doors that may have been fitted to be fully compliant have since been modified and have thus become non-compliant.  For example, if the gap is more than 3mm between the door and the frame, the door will most likely not perform in the event of a fire.  This could be a result of movement in the door, ill fitting hardware or adjustments that have been made to the floor or ceiling level. 

Many organisations wrongly believe that fire doors are a ‘fit and forget’ fixture within a building, whereas, like all other fire safety devices, including fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire compartmentation, they need to be subject to routine inspection as part of a maintenance regime.  This misconception is often because the benefits of a well-operating fire door in preventing smoke and flame for a set amount of time are not seen or appreciated until a fire breaks out in a building.

Many of the doors we have replaced in both public and commercial premises are well beyond their operating life.   This is often because the door seals have been damaged or the gap between door and frame is simply too large to make them serve any useful purpose.

In the past 18 months there have been more tests carried out on fire doors, because of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  The result is that some manufacturers have been instructed to upgrade the specification of their new fire doors to meet the minimum 30 minutes fire prevention statutory requirement. 

This can only be a good thing for the future safety of building occupants. However, a major factor in ensuring compliance and the correct operation of a fire door is its installation.   So many fire doors that have been fitted, even recently, have been incorrectly installed. 

Even if a door is correctly installed, it needs to be subject to regular inspections to ensure it remains compliant. Every week, our engineers visit premises where the fire doors are just not fit for purpose.  In some cases, these doors have not been inspected since they were installed and those in charge of building maintenance are not aware of the implications of fire door non-compliance.

Here at Horbury Property Services, we have been banging the drum about fire doors and the need for regular inspection for some time, but what’s new is that we can now back this up with a Smart Fire Door solution.  In simple terms, what this means is that a chip is inserted within a fire door and this collects information about how the fire door is being used and sends an alert when it is not being used correctly.  The result is that a building’s estates or FM team can monitor fire door usage more accurately and can take appropriate action to minimise any risks.

The Smart Fire Door solution we offer enables the building owner to ascertain how often the fire door is used, so we can build an intelligent plan around the fire door strategy for a building.  Particularly being welcomed by local authorities and healthcare organisations, the Smart Fire Door means we can develop a plan where we inspect the most frequently used fire doors most often, whilst carrying out inspections on the others to meet compliance levels.  This is a win-win for our clients, who can have intelligent monitoring of their doors, whilst working to a budget that targets predominantly doors in the most heavily used traffic areas.

If there is any doubt about the fire safety of a building, including the credentials of its fire doors, there is no substitute for partnering with a specialist company, like ourselves.   Following an audit of your building and its passive fire protection (including fire door and fire compartmentation inspections) we can produce a schedule that details actions that need to be immediately addressed and those that can be covered in a planned programme of works, allowing you to budget for this accordingly.

Horbury Property Services provides specialist inspection services for fire doors or fire compartmentation to ensure that a building is meeting requirements and remains compliant, in the interests of occupants and building owners.

For more information, take a look at our fire door inspections, fire stopping and fire compartmentation services.

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